Friday, June 25, 2004


Promos of Deewar were being shown in moviehalls for months, so everybody knew what the movie was about. The challenge for director Milan Luthria was in making the ‘how’ exciting, which, unfortunately he has been unable to do.

Deewar: Let’s Bring Our Heroes Home is as ponderous and boring as the title makes it sound. And you feel really bad for the slog the cameraman (Nirmal Jani) and action director (Tinu Verma) have put in, because for all their expertise, the end product is spectacularly senseless.

Major Kaul (Amitabh Bachchan) and a group of Indian soldiers have been languishing in a Pakistani jail for 33 years. Their attempts at escape have failed, and they have been given up for dead by the Indian army. After being beaten, tortured, starved for 33 years, wearing the same tattered clothes and shoes—at least some of the prisoners look well fed and healthy. Most of the actors cast as POWs are actually young men with old make up, which gives them an unreal, spooky appearance.

One of them manages to get out, very conveniently collapses outside the home of a Hindu in Pakistan, gives him a letter which reaches its destination. Major Kaul’s wife (Tanuja) tries to get the army to get the POWs out and is given the lame excuse that if they raise a stink the men will be killed. Why indeed did the Pakistanis keep them alive in the first place?

Kaul’s son Gaurav (Akshaye Khanna) infiltrates Pakistan with a bunch of corpses, but reaches the other side with a bag, changes of clothes and enough money to buy everything he needs – including information from an ISI source (who is in a swank den with a bevy of belly dancers!)

He traces the Hindu called Jabber (Akhilendra Mishra) who had posted the letter and easily gets shelter in his house. The prisoners are shifted to another prison with a more sadistic jailor (Kay Kay) to avoid the human rights people. There they meet a group of younger POWs and among them is a mercenary Khan (Sanjay Dutt). He was ostensibly caught selling Indian secret information to Pakistan. So why is he in a POW camp?

During another failed jailbreak attempt Khan gets out, is rescued by Gaurav who just loiters outside the prison all day without anyone spotting him. Khan is one of those fixers who can manage anything from information, to safe hideouts, vehicles, weapons, camels, fake identity cards, etc. But he cannot manage to smuggle information back into the jail. He has to go back himself to give the escape route details to Kaul and get flogged half to death by the jailor. Why does Khan put his neck on the line, when he has nothing to gain or lose? The writers or director don’t explain.

Very easily, vehicles and guns are arranged, at a pinch a camel caravan is also rustled up—you wonder why, if escape was so simple, the ‘heroes’ couldn’t succeed for 33 years!

Somewhere in between, Jabbar is exposed and killed. Gaurav runs away and hides with Jabbar’s daughter Radhika (Amrita Arora), with whom he has a romance going (at one point she does a little cabaret in a ghagra with stringy backless blouse—where did she get that outfit in Pakistan?). But when his work is done, he says a curt ‘bye see you some time’ and walks off. For that matter, Kaul promises to take Khan’s body back to India but leaves his benefactor dead in the desert. Heck, what happened to ‘honour’ in Indian heroes?

As can be expected Amitabh Bachchan literally towers over the others and gives a fine performance, followed closely by Sanjay Dutt doing his patented rakish character. But their efforts and the splashy stunts are hardly reason enough to suffer this film. Made all the more painful by the knowledge that it had pulse-pounders like The Great Escape, Von Ryan’s Express, Stalag 17 and other foreign films as sources of ‘inspiration’.


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